New parking meters take cards, run on solar

NEXT GENERATION: The city of Tempe has installed new parking meters on Mill Avenue between Third Street and University Drive. The meters feature electronic readings that include the exact time the meter will run out and an option to pay with coins or major credit cards. (Photo by Lisa Bartoli)

New trial-run parking meters installed along Mill Avenue run on solar energy and accept debit cards, giving ASU students and others a shot at staying green while not having to carry any green.

The city of Tempe has added 90 of the meters from Third Street to University Drive.

The meters are currently in a 90-day trial period and their success will be evaluated at the end of June. If they are judged valuable and receive positive feedback, they may be installed in other parts of Tempe.

“It’s being very well-received,” said Elizabeth Carless, a spokeswoman for the Downtown Tempe Community. “People really like the ease.”

The meters have been in use in communities outside of Arizona before, Carless said, but was unsure if they were the first in the Valley.

How many of the parking meters will be installed if the project is a success is still to be determined. The meters track purchases as a means of learning how much of a financial success they were by the end of the trial period.

“It does very exact reporting on transactions and costs and revenues … all internally,” Carless said.

But more important than any financial impact, Carless said, “it’s really a customer service initiative.”

The meters use a display to give similar information that a regular parking meter would give, such as the cost of parking and hours. They also do not accept payment if customers try to use them after hours.

Visitors can pay $1.50 to park for one hour using the credit card option, or up to $2 for one hour, 20 minutes.

ASU student Chelsea Till, while walking along Mill Avenue, said she would consider using new parking meters installed there, and enjoys the idea of “green” meters, but added one thing.

“If anything, I always try to look for free parking,” Till said.

Maxel Ross, an employee at Urban Outfitters on Mill Avenue, said he’s never had any requests for meter change before, and is unsure of how much of an impact the new meters have had.

“People complain about parking already,” Ross said. “I don’t think they’re going to do anything really.”

But as Carless pointed out, the money received is less important than giving customers a different way to go about things — assuming they are able to find parking.

“It’s just about giving people that extra way of paying for their parking,” she said.

Reach the reporter at clecher@asu.edu